My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary this past week. 55 years. My mom was not even 19 when she and my Dad married - and he was an old man of 21. Robert Vern Chambers and Charlotte Cathleen Crowe married on a very hot June afternoon in a sweet little southern church with no air conditioning -- at 6pm! My mother was every bit as elegant as Grace Kelly in her borrowed wedding gown and my Dad would have given James Bond a run for his money in his elegant white coat tuxedo.
Shortly after they were married my Dad, enlisted in the Army, became stationed in Germany. Mom went along and without the comfort of cell phones, email, or Skype to reach 'home', they managed to turn his call of duty into an extended honeymoon all across Europe. For two full years, each time my Dad had leave, they would set out for a previously unvisited country and explore the diverse and unique beauty that is the continent of culture. My Mom still tells wonderful stories of their ventures into Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Monte Carlo among others.
As I've watched them over the years, there are many things that stand out to me about their relationship. My Daddy is reserved, kinda' serious, a packrat of sorts, and solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. He enjoys spending time with friends but would never be one to initiate any kind of social gathering. An excellent (and sometimes experimental) cook, he especially enjoys baking. For years, we have enjoyed his homemade cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, and German Christmas bread. I can think of only one mishap of his which has jokingly been placed in the annals of history as "Dad's sauerkraut cake". Ick - my mouth curls up even now as I remember that first (and last) awful bite.
My Mom is super organized, highly social, and has an incredible way of making everyone around her feel special and important. She's tenderhearted and compassionate to the core. Watch out though, she will cut you like a butcher's knife through soft butter if you come after her family! Mama can make popcorn and brownies seem like a feast fit for a king, cry tears of joy as quickly as tears of sorrow, and read a story in a way that truly makes you feel as if you have been transported through time.
Daddy gave me my blue eyes, my appetite, and my ugly knees. Mama gave me my great cheekbones, my love of entertaining, and my stubborn streak.
So how do two people, with such diverse personalities, make a marriage that is still going strong after 55 years? There are several things which come to mind:
Commitment. The dictionary defines the word "commit" this way: To give in trust or charge; to pledge oneself; to entrust, especially for safekeeping. My parents have encompassed all those beautiful attributes of commitment in their attitude and actions towards each other. They trust one another. And they know that no one else on Planet Earth has more invested in their safekeeping than each for the other.
My grandmother told my mom the morning of her wedding that if she ever showed up at their door after she married my dad, she would swat her on the backside and send her back home. Bottom line, it was my Memaw's way of saying 'you're in this for the long haul; be committed to it and work it out.' And work it out they have. There have been incredible highs and devastating lows, but my parents have gone through it all together. Their commitment to each other is absolutely unwavering. And everyone around them knows it.
Strength. Strength is not the same as commitment. One of the definitions for strength is moral power, firmness, and courage. My mom and dad have been strong for each other, strong for their marriage, and strong for each other's families. My dad has always had an excellent relationship with my mom's parents. Daddy grieved the loss of one of his best friends when my Papa died. And Mama was every bit as caring and loving towards my dad's family as she was her own. They have been strong and courageous for each other, on behalf of each other, and with each other. They give strength to one another and receive strength from each other.
Loyalty. In a word, faithful. My parents have many friends and acquaintances of the opposite sex. But they have observed and respected undeniable boundaries, remaining loyal and faithful to each other from before their wedding. They are truly each other's one and only.
Perseverance. Definition: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Nothing could be more true of two people in this world than the perseverance of my mom and dad. They have faced insurmountable odds, endured betrayal by those they considered friends, survived financial hardships, and suffered the heartache of their extremely rebellious children. But they have stayed the course. Unwavering in their faith and their commitment to prayer, my parents have walked what they talk.
Unity. Oneness. "The state of being one." I remember growing up, there was no playing one against the other in our house. Mom and Dad always presented a united front to my brother and me. Even if they might have disagreed behind closed doors, we never knew it. Mom and Dad truly enjoy each other's company and have made their friendship a huge part of their marriage.
My parents are not perfect. They have disagreements and spats. They get frustrated with each other. And there have probably been at least a couple of occasions when they questioned their sanity. But they have, over the years, taken a blank canvas and painted a beautiful picture of commitment, strength, loyalty, perseverance, and unity. In their 55 years of marriage, that canvas has become a masterpiece. And I, for one, am grateful to have watched these two artists at work, at play, at home. Together.
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you.